|But the melody was beautiful, the sound of the tune on my cassette weirdly haunting in
the pitch blackness of the submersible.
A loud alarm sounded and I jumped in shock. But there was no leak or change of pressure. Nautile was just letting us know we had almost reached the bottom, that we were about a thousand feet from the Titanic.
The lights flashed on, 4,000 watts of them, and it seemed as though the Titanic had appeared with blazing clarity in her own swimming pool. The ship was brilliantly clear, red, orange, gold, green and many shades of blue.
Tears came to my eyes. Tears for the magnificence of the ship, and tears for the heartbreak and sadness the Titanic represented. I had the eerie sense that I could hear voices, voices that survivor Edwina Troutt MacKenzie had described; screams for help that finally fell silent as the minutes passed.
Then, without warning, disaster loomed. As we moved in for a closeup of the propeller, rusty tentacles reached out to swallow up the Nautile. I saw we were stuck underneath the twisted remains of the stern. No one breathed. Our captains knew that a move in any direction could serously damage our craft. And yet, if we didn't attempt to free ourselves from the overhang, we would be trapped with a rapidly diminishing air supply.
Captain P. H. Nargeolet, aware of the critical danger, guided the sub with excruciating care, skillfully extricating us from the deadly overhang. Endless minutes later, the sub escaped into clear, unobstructed waters.
Nobody acknowledged out loud what a close call it had been, but I knew how near I had come to sharing a watery grave with the ill-fated Titanic passengers.
The sights I saw were bizarre and beautiful. Bedsprings and bottles, chamber pots and china. I caught a glimpse of a sterling silver platter, the glitter of twisted gold-plated chandelier fixtures, the glow of lovely cut crystal decanters. We secured a beautiful blue and white plate with flowers in a vine pattern. We also picked up a burnt sienna vase with dragon handles.
The legendary ship was adorned like a Christmas tree covered with rusticles. Orange icicles hung everywhere, dripping down.
I thought, you don't care about the cold, you don't care about the lack of food, you don't care about anything because being on the bottom is so fascinating that every other thought vanishes, every memory fades into the distance.
Those moments were worth everything else I experienced on board. I had to handle some of the most difficult problems of my life and career on this voyage. One man, in particular, wanted me removed as expedition leader because he felt "a woman is incapable of leading men." This man wanted to take a crew and dive during one of the worst fogs on record. It would have
endangered the lives of all the men, and I said no. He threatened to destroy me for interfering with his moment of glory, but my first responsibility was to my men. My first responsibility was to protect them, not give in to the demands of a dangerous egomaniac.